Sunday, October 23, 2022

A Trip to the Audiologist

About a month or so ago, I made an appointment for me to have a hearing exam and talk to the audiologist that my Best Half has seen for the past several years. Over the past few months, it seems, I was having trouble hearing and understanding my Best Half when we would be talking to each other. While it is totally “normal” for him to not hear me often times, it seemed that the tables were turned and I was the one having trouble hearing him. I chalked it up to him mumbling more and not articulating his words well. I kind of figured because his hearing had gotten so bad that he couldn’t hear himself saying the words and they were coming out mumbled. That was my take on it. That and the fact that he is from the South and still has some twang in his conversations. Being I am born and raised 64 years a Minnesotan I don’t speak Southern at all. And I’m a nurse, I can assess these things. But at the request of my Best Half, I made an appointment for myself to get my hearing checked.

A few years ago, I had a hearing exam because it was covered under our insurance and I was having some issues with tinnitus, you know, ringing in your ears for unknown reasons. I have had it for as long as I can remember. But it’s not so much ringing in my ears, it’s a chirping, like a million cicada bugs like they have down South. In fact one time down South they were especially loud and my Best Half mentioned that even he could hear them chirping really loud. I was so glad he had said that because I thought the tinnitus in my ears had just exploded. It turned out along with the choir always in my head, there was an extra special loud chorus going in the trees.

Anyway, the hearing exam a few years ago showed a bit of hearing loss in the high pitch ranges, most probably because the “chirping” in my ears was blocking the sounds during the hearing test. But it wasn’t bad and I had told the audiologist I just used a lot of background noise to ignore the chirping. It involved things like music or the TV on in the background, earbuds at night with music or an audio book until I fell asleep. So basically I was dealing with it without needing the $3000 hearing aids that would mask the chirping possibly.

Well, the day came for my hearing exam so we headed down together to the Cities for the appointment. My Best Half thought he’d go and wait in the car and then we would go to lunch after the exam. We got to the appointment and I wandered up to the hearing floor to sit and wait with the other masked people in the lobby. With all the masking that we have done the past couple of years, I have realized how much I have come to rely on lip reading. I know for a fact I don’t understand people when they are masked as well as being able to see their mouth as they are speaking.

Eventually, my name was called and I was in the exam room with the audiologist. I explained what was going on and pretty much told her it wasn’t me, it was my Best Half that was mumbling and not articulating his words so I could understand him. I could tell she was smiling under her mask and told me that very well could be part of the issue. He may not be hearing himself saying the words and they are not coming out clear. I felt a bit relieved that she kind of agreed. But as long as I was there she wanted to check my hearing.

So into the little soundproof booth I went with the earbud things in my ears waiting for the beeping sounds to start so I could click the button every time I heard any beep. While waiting for her to set up in the other room, I thought my head was going to explode from the loud chirping happening in that soundproof room! It was way too quiet and it allowed me to focus on the chirping. 

A few minutes later and she began the testing. First the left ear, then the right ear. I was punching that button like a mad woman…there was nothing wrong with my hearing. I could tell, I’m a nurse, you know. After a few more minutes the testing was over and I stepped out of the booth able to hear the whirl of the computer fan and people in the hallway. It was good to have the background noise instead of the chirping in my head.

The audiologist printed up the hearing test and proceeded to show me the results. It would need some explaining since it was a graph that started up and gradually scaled downwards. Hmm…I had a hunch I knew what it meant. And as she explained, it showed just what I was thinking as I looked at the graph. I have significant  hearing loss in both ears, but moderately severe in the right ear. Pitches that were right around conversation level and higher pitches weren’t coming through as well as they did a few years back. The audiologist explained it more than likely was the pitches that were in the same running as the chirping from the tinnitus. What the heck?!

We went over options to help my hearing, including trying on a pair of hearing aids. While I could hear a pin drop, I also had feedback when I spoke, kind of like wearing headphones and speaking into a microphone when recording. It was loud. That along with being $1800 (the cheap seats hearing aids) made us discuss other options. Mostly wait until I am 65 in a few months and also when over the counter hearing aids will become available. She was willing to have me send her any I may find and critique them for me and the tinnitus.   

I was ready to leave, but she continued to talk with me about “our” options…meaning my Best Half and me. She knows him quite well from working together over the years and understands the frustration probably happening between us as I now have to admit that I have hearing loss and it is not all his fault. I was really grateful for the tips and time she took to try and solve the issue. I thanked her and left with the promise to touch bases later in a few months.

I got out to the car and when my Best Half asked how it had gone I told him that he needed to quit mumbling when he was speaking to me. He had to articulate. He wasn’t falling for that solution one bit, so I fessed up and told him about the appointment and possibly needing hearing aids. And how we should be in the same room when talking, and probably facing each other. And that we should get each other’s attention before talking. And when all else fails…he should turn up his hearing aids. Ok that last one was my suggestion, but it can’t hurt for him to hear me. Just won’t help me hearing him.

Since the appointment, I have been more conscious of using the tips I was given. And while it isn’t perfect, it is better. At least until I get my ears wrapped around the fact that I probably need hearing aids. Again, this aging stuff, not for the faint of heart. Here's hoping we can keep the lines of communication open in whatever way possible…either hearing aids for me or…maybe it’ll be two times cans and a string. 

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